By Matthew Keller,
From Krakow to Israel and then to snowy, sleeting Cleveland; it has been quite a journey for the Frank Fellows, a group of 8 young leaders from around the US. Who would have thought that the weather in Cleveland in May would be on par with Poland in January? The atmosphere at JCPA2016, JCPA’s annual conference, was far from dreary, though. The rooms were filled with an excited, energetic buzz as JCPA charted its’ course on a new strategic vision with David Bernstein at the helm as the new CEO/President.
JCPA2016’s theme of Let’s Move Forward Together set the tone for the incredible opportunities offered to the over 150 delegates in attendance to help them shape the organization’s direction for years to come. The Unconference sessions, based on the OpenSpace model, provided the entire group the chance to discuss and explore priorities for the local JCRCs as well as the role of JCPA in relation to the local communities. These conversations continued with a vibrant roundtable Strategic Cafe, where delegates worked with senior staff and lay leaders on visioning the path forward for JCPA.
JCPA2016 wasn’t all about strategic planning. There was important community relations work to be done. Highlights included a presentation by Congressmen Tom Davis and Martin Frost on the causes behind our country’s current political polarization; a discussion with Elliott Abrams, Tamara Wittes and Ami Eden regarding turmoil in the Middle East; and a conversation with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Kristen Clarke and Steven Dettelbach on new frontiers in civil rights. The menu of small group sessions was extensive, with topics such as the refugee crisis, counter-BDS legislation, new directions in Muslim-Jewish engagement, and US-Israel relations. Significant policy resolutions on wage theft and combating climate change were overwhelmingly passed.
As a relative newcomer to community relations, public policy, and JCPA I have been so impressed with the staff and lay leadership. They have embraced the challenge of thinking forward and being visionary. They have sought input and collaboration from those with experience as well as those who will be the future of the organization. I am honored to be part of the Frank Fellow program and look forward to the continued great work of JCPA.